“IT WAS THE BEST OF TIMES,

Los Angeles Confidential - - Letter - Spencer beck

it was the worst of times…” Dick­ens (or Shake­speare) al­ways sums it up nicely. Amidst the cur­rent na­tional back­drop of pol­i­tics gone cray cray, the arts are thriv­ing across the coun­try—es­pe­cially in LA. Funny how that works.

For some time now, the City of An­gels has be­come the City of Artists, ar­guably the arts cap­i­tal of the Western Hemi­sphere, if not the world—inar­guably when it comes to the lat­est trends in paint­ing, sculp­ture, in­stal­la­tion, et al. Leave it to our sun-and­shadow-dap­pled city, where artists thrive on the abun­dant nat­u­ral light and the rel­a­tively cheap rents, to move the cul­ture nee­dle for­ward. And then some.

In this, our an­nual Arts Is­sue, we dig into the city’s oil-and-acrylic-splat­tered smor­gas­bord, from Playa Vista to Pasadena—and ev­ery­thing in be­tween. What a feast: We in­tro­duce five artists who flour­ish on the cut­ting edge where art and the dig­i­tal world in­ter­sect. That had to hap­pen, right? (See “Star Tech!,” page 45.) And who needs old-fash­ioned deal­ers and gal­leries? An­other artist, a self-taught painter from the moun­tains of eastern Utah, Zachary Crane, 28, has built a boom­ing lit­tle busi­ness right off his old iPhone (see “Por­trait of the Insta-Artist,” page 64). Count­ing prom­i­nent col­lec­tors from Hol­ly­wood to haute-est Paris, Crane has proved that an In­sta­gram of fame can go a very long way.

But let’s not for­get LA’s hardly old­school in­sti­tu­tional art scene. Long be­fore Crane dropped his first DM, Los An­ge­les cul­ture queen Nancy Dwan in­vented the fu­ture of art in LA in the 1960s with her sem­i­nal West­wood gallery, which in­tro­duced the city to a host of lead­ing New York artists, and con­versely, blasted the art world with the best of the best of An­ge­leno­made fare. This sum­mer, LACMA pays tribute to this zeit­geist mo­ment with a must-see mega ex­hibit (see “Dwan of Ages,” page 58). West­wood is back, by the way, thanks to the Ham­mer Mu­seum’s in­de­fati­ga­ble di­rec­tor, Ann Philbin, who is in the midst of ex­pand­ing her lit­tle mu­seum by a whop­ping 40,000 square feet (which is only fit­ting, since the Ham­mer’s bud­get these days al­ready tops out among the coun­try’s big­gest). LA’s avant-avant garde mu­seum never ceases to shock (nor will our ex­clu­sive pre­view of the Ham­mer’s “Pa­cific Stan­dard Time: LA/LA” of­fer­ing, “Rad­i­cal Women: Latin Amer­i­can Art, 1960-1985,” page 72). Across town, MOCA mixed shock with a hefty dose of chic at its an­nual fundrais­ing gala, which pulled in a glit­ter­ing mix of celebri­ties and so­cialites with its ma­genta-mad ode to leg­endary bad-boy artist Jeff Koons—and a cool $3 mil­lion for fu­ture ex­hi­bi­tions. Heady stuff.

As glam-bam as that party was, the Met Gala this past spring, in my home­town of New York, still rules. By a hair. Have to give Ms. Win­tour credit for that. This year was fash­ion fun as usual, of course, but noth­ing matched the 1996 it­er­a­tion. At that one, a 30-some­thing re­porter for W mag­a­zine got to chat up Princess Diana (the year be­fore she died)—all re­gal-rad in her mid­night blue Dior slip dress. What an en­chant­ing, un­for­get­table en­counter.

“Who­ever loved that loved not at first sight?” Thanks, Will Shake­speare (via Christo­pher Mar­lowe), for sum­ming that mo­ment up.

21st Cen­tury Foxes! from top: Paint­ing the town with tal­ent agent/ glam­our boy Gary Man­toosh at MOCA’s 38th an­nual gala hon­or­ing Jeff Koons; crush­ing on pretty gal/cover star/part­ner in com­edy Leslie Mann; kick-start­ing spring with pub­lisher Ali­son Miller and mu­si­cian/ac­tor/Cre­ative Re­cre­ation de­signer Nick Jonas at Catch LA.

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